Heat Guard, Former Illini Kendrick Nunn is a Remarkable Comeback Story

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During NBA All-Star weekend, NBA TV ran an episode of a program called “Open Court,” which consisted of a panel of Chicago basketball legends discussing the greatest individual players to ever come out of the windy city. The panel included Isiah Thomas, Tim Hardaway, Mark Aguirre, Dwyane Wade and more.

When the conversation turned to current Chicagoans who are representing in the NBA, Kendrick Nunn, who represented the U.S. in the NBA All-Star Rising Stars Game was brought up. Not bad for a guy who was thrown out of the University of Illinois (deservedly so) and went un-drafted (obviously not deserved, as 30 NBA GMs whiffed on that one) in 2018.

Nunn is indeed a rising star, as he’s averaging 15.5 points and 3.5 assists per game with the Heat while shooting 44% from the floor and 85% from the line. Having found success, the Simeon grad is now giving back.

On the day before the Rising Stars game, Nunn was joined by Actor/Musician Jacob Latimore and the Founder and CEO of Urban Prep Academies Tim King were to celebrate the partnership between grooming brand Bevel and Chicago’s Urban Prep Academies.

The donation from Bevel will cover the costs of college tours, college application fees, and college test prep fees for the classes of 2020 and 2021. Kendrick Nunn was made available for this article, but we were not able to attend the event to scheduling conflicts surrounding other NBA All-Star Game events.

We did have an exclusive with one of his former Illini teammates, Jalen Coleman-Lands, who still keeps in contact with Nunn a little bit.

“He’s worked hard,” said Coleman-Lands.

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“This is the same Kendrick that I’ve known, he’s just now getting the limelight. He’s the same hard working person I knew my first year, I’m glad he’s starting to reap the benefits.”

Like almost all Simeon grads who went on to play in the NBA, Nunn wears #25 to honor the late, great Ben Wilson (more on him here). While his journey to stardom, which included stops at Oakland University and the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League, has surprised many, it does not surprise Kendrick Nunn himself.

“It’s not no surprise at all,” Nunn told NBC Sports. “I’ve known who I was since years before this happened. I envisioned it and wanted to make it come to life working hard every day. The results have shown.”

His story is about a lot more than just overcoming scouting reports and unfavorable player evaluations. It’s about making a horrible mistake in life, paying the price for it, learning from the experience and getting your life back together.

In March of 2016, Nunn plead guilty to misdemeanor battery, admitting that he struck his then girlfriend in an incident on March 16th at her campus apartment.

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The guilty plea was in response to accusations that Nunn hit a woman, pushed her to the floor and poured water on her during an argument.

The then recently appointed Athletic Director Josh Whitman pushed then Illini basketball coach John Groce to dismiss Nunn from the program, and once he was kicked out of the University of llinois, Nunn’s reputation and career were in doubt.

However, the battery conviction was expunged from his permanent record after he completed 100 hours of community service, a 26-week partner abuse prevention program and wrote a letter of apology to the victim, all while under 18 months of court supervision.

Kendrick Nunn was then given a second chance by coach Greg Kampe at Oakland, where he became the Horizon League Player of the Year, averaged just under 26 points per game and led the nation in three point field goals made. After going undrafted in 2018, he signed a summer league deal with Golden State Warriors. It didn’t work out, so he then found himself in the G League, where he dominated. 

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He was no dominant that he got a second chance with the Miami Heat, where this time he caught on. From there, the positive trajectory ramped up and it shows no signs of stopping soon.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No,  I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” regularly appears on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation

You can follow Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com on Twitter here and his cat on Instagram at this link

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